Health Care

Health system grows heart and lung transplant program

May 27, 2016
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Spectrum Health completes first heart-and-lung transplant in West Michigan
Spectrum Health cardiothoracic surgeons Dr. Asghar Khaghani, right, and Dr. Tad Boeve perform a combined heart and lung transplant. Courtesy of Spectrum Health

A local health system carried out the only combined heart and lung transplant in the state in 2015 and one of only a dozen performed in the nation last year.

Michelle Lorenz, Spectrum Health transplant administrator, said Spectrum’s transplant program, which launched in 2010, is quickly becoming a leader and growing at an impressive rate.

Spectrum is one of only three Michigan hospitals performing adult heart and adult lung transplants. The other two are Henry Ford Hospital and University of Michigan Medical Center.

Lorenz noted Spectrum did 19 adult heart transplants and 26 adult lung transplants in 2015, up from 13 and 14 the previous year.

In 2015, a total of 72 adult heart transplants and 88 adult lung transplants were completed in Michigan. Based on those numbers, Spectrum Health’s statewide market share of adult heart transplants rose from 20.3 percent to 26.4 percent, an increase of 30 percent. Its statewide market share of adult lung transplants rose from 24.1 to 29.5 percent, an increase of 22.4 percent.

“We’ve really accomplished quite a bit of volume over a few years,” Lorenz said.

She noted Spectrum Health is also achieving high-quality outcomes, which will help the program grow even more in the coming years.

What is most impressive, according to Lorenz, is that the program is so young.

“What you have around the country are very well-established programs,” she said. “Heart transplants got going in the mid 1980s, really, so most of those programs around the country have been in existence for quite some time.”

Lorenz said Spectrum’s success and growth can be attributed mostly to its recruitment of two of the world’s leading doctors: Dr. Asghar Khaghani and Dr. Martin Strueber.

Khaghani has performed more than 1,000 transplants around the world and is considered a pioneer in the field of thoracic organ transplantation.

Strueber is also a leader in the field and was recruited to Spectrum Health in 2014 to help grow the transplant program.

“We were able to recruit two doctors who have tremendous amounts of transplant experience,” Lorenz said.

Lorenz said the program has benefitted the greater Grand Rapids community by providing access to top surgeons.

“We are keeping our patients in the community,” she said. “They don’t have to travel for this type of complicated care, and we are really creating access for patients who wouldn’t have had the access or the means to travel for a heart or lung transplant.”

Lorenz added that transplant lists are growing and she expects that to continue.

“The numbers keep increasing over time in terms of how many people need an organ transplant,” Lorenz said. “In Michigan, if we look at the total number of people waiting for organ transplants, it’s about 3,800. There aren’t enough organs to go around. You have hundreds of people that die on the wait list.” 

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